By ALLISON GATLIN
El Dorado News-Times
HUTTIG — A slew of what appeared to be racial hate crimes raged across Huttig on Tuesday, targeting the mayor and several aldermen with white-painted crosses and signs splashed with red Ku Klux Klan symbols planted in their yards or businesses, according to reports made to the Union County Sheriff’s Office.
Monday afternoon investigators with the sheriff’s office were separately dispatched to five sites in Huttig where crosses were placed in Mayor Tony Cole’s yard, the parking lot of a business owned by the husband of Alderman Laura Manning and across from Huttig City Hall.
According to one report, a number of signs referencing the KKK were placed in the yard of Cole’s residence in the 400 block of Frost Street alongside a white cross with the name Cole on one side and Lee on the other. David Lee is also an alderman in Huttig.
The same investigator was also dispatched to the 800 block of Frost Street and to the intersection of Arkansas 129 and Otto Nash Road where he photographed a pair of signs on which "KKK" was written in red.
Across from city hall, he next discovered an additional sign that "didn’t appear to be a hate crime sign, but more a sign stating they wanted Tony Cole not to be the mayor," according to the report.
Later that evening, a second investigator responded to the 600 block of Olin Avenue where Manning’s husband reported finding a white cross placed in the parking lot of his business, according to an additional report.
Manning gave the name of a witness who, during an interview, stated she saw two white men go into the business parking lot, but couldn’t identify them.
Cole did not immediately return a voice mail left Wednesday by The Associated Press.
In related news, a relative of a couple who has publicly criticized Cole during city council meetings filed a harassment report Monday against the relative of a Huttig alderman who she said followed her to her business, got out of his vehicle and began shouting and calling her names, according to a third report.
Union County Sheriff Mike McGough said Tuesday that the racial issue has been an ongoing problem in Huttig and believes Monday’s incidents are likely related to the recent termination of former police chief Byron Sartor.
Initially, Cole contacted the FBI with his complaints, however, the sheriff’s office has since become involved.
"I take this very seriously especially considering my background where I investigated civil rights matters," he said. "And we’ll pursue this and prosecute those we find involved in it."